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Hello! We received a tort on Dec 23rd.  I would like help identifying him/her.  We were told he was at least 4 years old. He was purchased from a pet store and had minimal interaction with the previous owners. He has orange eyes and lots of orange around his face and neck.  He did not eat right away, but has now been eating romaine lettuce each morning (success!).  I have been giving him warm water soaks with pedialyte every other day for the past week because when we took him to a vet they said he was underweight.  He has a UVB light and basking light.  I don't have the wattage as i am at work, but the uvb light is zoo medic namebrand. He is in a large rubbermaid tub with sand and cypress mulch.  I will be changing out the sand as i have seen mixed reviews on that for tortoises.  I took him to the vet because his nails were severely overgrown.  They told us his beak was too long and we have since trimmed that.  I would like to know if we should go shorter.  I do not have the temperature readings handy, but would estimate that in the day it is in the mid 80's.  He has two areas that he can burrow/hide.  He had the mark on his shell when we got him.  I do not have a picture of his "undercarriage". He has lots of personality and it is fun to see him look healthier and thrive.

Hi Kara,

You have an adult box turtle (male, looks like).  As soon as it's spring in MN, I would build a secure outdoor pen for him, as box turtles do much better outside and do need a lot of room.  If you need to keep him indoors, I would build an enclosure that's at least 4 x 6.  

Box turtles require a lot of moisture in their enclosure.  Use a substrate that's 50/50 coir (ecoearth) and playsand, and then mix in some sphagnum moss (not peat moss).  It should be kept damp at all times, and especially in the basking area.  I'm not certain about the UVB bulb you have, but I would get a ZooMed Powersun (heat/UVB in one, 100 watts) if that's not what you have.  The Powersun is a good, reliable UVB bulb.  You want a basking area of about 90 degrees (on the substrate directly under the lamp), but there should be a cooler area as low as about 68 degrees so he can cool off as necessary.

Good for you for taking him to the vet!  His beak is still overgrown and I would have that trimmed again.  Once he's on a good diet you shouldn't have to worry about it again, but it won't wear down by itself.  I would not soak in pedialyte because it contains sugar, which is not good for them.  Provide a large water dish for him, and then soak him three times a week (lukewarm water, 15-20 minutes) for a few weeks.  After that, twice a week should be fine, as long as his enclosure stays moist.

Box turtles are omnivores, and about 60-70% of their diet should be animal protein.  They love live foods, such as snails, slugs, worms, crickets, etc.  You can also try boiled chicken and egg, shrimp, pinky mice, etc.  No dog or cat food, and no commercial box turtle food.  Since it's winter now, go to the pet store and see if they have "superworms" or "giant mealworms."  These look like mealworms, but much bigger (and grosser, lol).  Box turtles LOVE them (use tweezers) and he will come running for them.  Also offer some fruit, veggies, and greens a few times a week in small amounts.  If he hasn't been getting meat, he's probably starved for it and may not try much of other foods at first.  Mine especially like mushrooms, melon, strawberries, peppers, squash, etc.  

Here's a link with more information for you:  If you have more questions, please ask!


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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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